Northern Madonna



The first part of this (i) was written in the early 90’s while living in Northwestern Ontario. The second (ii) was written and posted in November 2012, living in Northern Nova Scotia. There are some minor tweaks to (ii). Both were reshaped to compliment one another without interfering with the different style and rhythms.

25 thoughts on “Northern Madonna

  1. What a perfect picture you make. Read whilst watching the snow drift back onto yesterday’s cleared driveway and Jackie wandered in wearing a pink robe. No butts were flicked; the squirrels need not fear lung cancer here. Angry Bird hides under her white winter coat.

    • Thanks Harold! I’m looking out our window at about 2 feet of snow that fell last night. It’s still blowing and snowing. At least the power hasn’t gone out – yet. My love to Angry Bird.

  2. I love how you conjure such evocative pictures Chris. I can see her so clearly, older in the second verse but otherwise nothing has changed.

  3. the first one leaves me feeling sad for the madonna. what a miserable situation. other than the child, what can she look forward to? her dreams are frozen. the second seems to be another day in the madonna’s life. it makes me wonder what she sees when she is staring from her door. the bit of aggression taken out on the squirrel shows to me her anger at the situation she has found herself in. you’ve sketched out lives with quick, skillful strokes.

    • Zoltán you’ve added a dimension and brought the imagery to entirely different level introducing the Uffizi and Crewdson references. Layers of imagery. Thank you for this. Also, I appreciate your note on the gap – this was an important part of the work for me, as were the different locations. There is quite a difference between the boreal woods of northwestern Ontario and the rural landscape of Atlantic Canada.

  4. I like the poem Chris, the change in style, time and place. The creative rhyming contrasts. The whizz bang of a time machine in moving from one verse to the other. I agree…It is very cinematic.
    I had a bit of a problem with the title though. To me, a “madonna” is more connected by her very nature despite her situation. Reading in the first stanza it was “his” child on her breast infers more… like post postpartum depression, despair, even insanity, will she put the kid down and not hear its cries. Well…this verse also reads like a fairy tale and fairy tales can be like that, can’t they. In the second verse the “madonna” archetype was pretty well obliterated. Maybe this was your objective though?
    I guess the added contrast of the title was overload for me. Picky picky picky…. LOL
    Thanks for the exercise!

    • Thanks Jana for the comments and digging. The original piece was inspired by the religious paintings of Madonna with Child in one setting or another. And by woman and circumstances I was familiar with in that place and time. The second… a drive-by that I saw and captured. The original poem came to mind when I wrote it and then recently I came across the two again and was inspired by the contrasts and similarities. As much I was contemplative about how my style of writing has changed from one driven by concepts to one driven by observation. I think somewhere I am also aware of the contrast between the realities of these women and the idealization of the original Madonnas.

      • Am I being a tad over sensitive about the “madonna” title? Perhaps. As you point out…we all have our references. It isn’t a religious connection for me though. I guess I like seeing feminine instinct (rather than idealization) have a moniker I can rely on. Oh Chris….It’s enjoyable hashing this out with you!

      • The ” feminine instinct (rather than idealization) have a moniker”, I do like that! But come on Jana – Picky. Picky. Picky… you and your archetypes. 🙂

      • I had to return to this Chris to let you know… my response to the word Madonna (which was a little nebulous even to me) sparked, ignited, and conflagrated a vast prairie of insight. Thank you fellow pilgrim on the trail… Jana !

      • Ah, that’s cool… how things work.
        And in turn I find myself reflecting on archetypes – which is really not something I do (beyond your influence of course!)
        Have a good one Jana!

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